December 02, 2010
How To

Social Media and Videos Create Product Launch Buzz: 8 tactics that helped a new product sell out in a matter of hours

SUMMARY: Your market's movers and shakers -- and even some of your customers and partners -- are at trade shows looking to see what's next for your industry. The more buzz you can build at these events for your latest and greatest products -- the more likely you are to sell them.

See the tactics a crafting brand used to leverage an important trade show for an upcoming product launch. Two months after the show, the product sold out in a matter of hours.
by Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter

Precision crafting products provider Provo Craft had a new product to launch in 2009, the Gypsy. The hand-held device served as a companion to the company's precision paper cutting machine, the Cricut, and enabled consumers to design projects on-the-go.

Matt Wilburn, CMO, Provo Craft, and his team planned to unveil the Gypsy at the Craft and Hobby Association trade show in July 2009. The biannual event attracted retail representatives and consumers who wanted to see the latest craft products.

"The consumers who to go these shows tend to be influencers. They tend to have their own blogs, and a lot of them broadcast from the show through blogs, videos and tweets," Wilburn says.

The team needed to build buzz before, during and after the event to successfully launch sales of the product in September. Provo Craft knew its customers were highly engaged online in forums and social networks -- so that is where the team sought them out.

The team crafted a social media and viral video marketing campaign using the tactics below to build the buzz. The result was a better-than-expected product launch which quickly sold out.

"If we had not done this campaign and if we had not built up the buzz leading up to the airing, we wouldn't have had nearly the success we had in selling out in a couple of hours," Wilburn says.

Here are the tactics the team used to build buzz before and after the event to spur such a successful launch:

Tactic #1. Craft story around product themes

The Gypsy's key attributes are fun, creativity and mobility. The team brainstormed marketing themes around these areas and lightening struck as they were testing the product in focus groups.

"We had people jokingly say that they didn't want to pass the prototype they had around the room ... They joked asking 'can I keep this?' and pretended to stick I in their purses. We saw this over and over again in the focus groups," Wilburn says.

To combine these ideas, the team came up with a story of a fictitious bounty hunter who chased 10 fugitive crafters who had stolen Gypsy prototypes. The idea fit the team's themes of fun and creativity, and also underscored the Gypsy's mobility since the crafters were "on-the-run."

The team considered the Gypsy to be a "disruptive" product and wanted its marketing to follow suit. Provo Craft hired a tattooed and mutton-chopped actor to play the part of bounty hunter Donnie K., whose appearance gave the campaign an edgy feel. The team brought the edginess to its microsite and advertising, helping them stand out in an industry better known for "cute" marketing, Wilburn says.

Tactic #2. Create a series of funny videos

The team created 10 short videos in which Donnie hopelessly tried to catch the Gypsy thieves. Each fugitive represented a type of Provo Craft customer the team identified, from a crafting retiree to a 23-year-old scrapbook maker.

The videos also included:
o Humor
o Release date: "Legal this fall"
o Microsite URL
o Examples of items made with the Gypsy (as part of the story)
o Product features (also as part of the story)

"We tried to be creative," says Tonia Conger, Director, PR, Provo Craft. "We didn't want to be really obvious about it, but we wanted to include those educational elements [about the product] as much as we could just so the consumer could grasp what this product is and what it is capable of doing."

Tactic #3. Create microsite to centralize campaign

The team hosted the videos on a microsite called Rogue Gypsies (see creative samples), as well as on YouTube. The microsite included:
o Clean, image-based design
o Large video player above the fold, set to auto-play
o Links to play other videos (when hovered over, the links showed fugitive/customer profiles)
o Links to follow Donnie on social networks (more on that later)
o Twitter widget to automatically list recent tweets
o Short blog posts

The microsite served as the central point for the campaign -- receiving all traffic from advertising and links from social media websites.

The team launched the microsite three weeks before the CHA trade show. Videos were released over the course of two weeks to give the campaign the feel of a developing story as well as to avoid overwhelming the audience. All the videos were loaded after two weeks -- one full week on the site before the trade show.

Tactic #4. Create in-character social media presences

Wilburn and the team knew the audience was well organized and social online, so they created social media presences from for the bounty hunter, Donnie, to connect in the following channels:
o Facebook
o Twitter
o Flickr -- host a handful of images
o YouTube -- primarily to host videos

Donnie posted updates on Facebook and Twitter throughout July. Wilburn and the team were pleasantly surprised at the actor's willingness and ability to banter and joke with the audience. Regular updates and meaningful, relevant responses are vital to connecting with online communities. Your team can also have a marketer partner with an actor to ensure that responses stay in character and meet marketing goals.

Tactic #5. Drive traffic to microsite

Although not central to its strategy, the team purchased a small amount of advertising to help drive traffic to its microsite. The channels included:

- Email

The team drafted two emails from the CEO in regards to the campaign to send to its email database. The first was a tongue-in-cheek alert about the stolen Gypsy prototypes, which linked to the micro site and included text copy such as:

"This is an exciting and troubling time for us here at Provo Craft. Exciting because we're on the verge of releasing a new revolutionary product named Gypsy. Troubling because all of our prototypes have fallen into the hands of rogue crafters who refuse to give them back. That's why we've hired Donnie K the bounty hunter..."

The team sent this email to kick off the campaign, three weeks before the trade show. The second email, sent about one week before the trade show, continued the farce and linked to the campaign microsite (see creative samples below).

- Display advertising

The team created display ads that linked to the microsite and ran on about 12 of the most-trafficked craft websites on the Web. The ads' designs stood out from traditional industry display advertising by featuring pictures of everyday women in mug shots with captions such as "When Scrapbookers Go Bad" (see creative samples below).

- Search PPC

The team ran a paid-search marketing campaign targeting words specific to the campaign, such as "rogue gypsy" and "provo craft gypsy." The team did not bid broader terms, which kept the campaign more affordable.

"Consumers would have had to have heard about the campaign and searched [for branded keywords] in order for the paid search ads to appear," Wilburn says.

- Company homepage

The Provo Craft homepage ran large display ads above the fold linking to the microsite throughout the campaign.

Tactic #6. Unveil product at influential trade show

For three weeks, the team promoted its story and microsite using the tactics described above. At the conference scheduled for late July, the team shifted its message from the bounty hunter story to one about Gypsy's features and benefits.

Wilburn and the team debated inviting Donnie to attend and opted against it.

"We wanted it to be about the product when we unveiled it," Wilburn says. "We didn't want it to have too much emphasis on Donnie if at the launch event we made him a central figure.

- Continue the theme at the conference

Provo Craft had a booth at the conference where attendees could see the Gypsy and try it out. The team also handed out temporary tattoos, took attendees' pictures in front of a green screen, and handed out glossy pictures of them behind bars or in a mug shot.

The team also posted a copy of each picture on the booth's wall to attract attention.

"It just fueled the frenzy of people walking by and seeing it and seeing the aliases everyone created for themselves," Wilburn says. "It created a buzz factor.

Also: team members made themselves available for interviews to the numerous bloggers at the conference, which helped the team capture press.

The team's unveiling at the trade show generated so much buzz that the Twitter tag "#gypsy" was a trending topic on Twitter for a matter of hours during the event.

Tactic #7. After trade show, shift marketing message to focus on product

The team built a large amount of awareness and buzz around the product before and during the event (sees results below). Up to this point, the campaign was designed to give its audience a sneak peak at the product. Now it was time make a full introduction.

The team launched another microsite, this time to describe the Gypsy in detail. The site included:
o Large product images
o How-to videos
o Product details
o Frequently asked questions
o Information on where to purchase
o Links to a help forum, the Rogue Gypsy website, and special promotions

The team sent another email to its subscribers, describing the product and linking to the new microsite. The team also continued its paid search marketing campaign, and sent Gypsies to influential industry bloggers for them to test and review.

Wilburn felt like the team needed to really explain the product for consumers to be interested in purchasing.

"When you're approaching $300 for a product, people need to be educated about what it does. It's not a low-consideration product," he says.

Tactic #8. Launch sale in proven outlet

The team first sold the Gypsy on the Home Shopping Network television program on Sept. 19 (see video link below). When the team launched its Cricut product back in 2006 on the network, it sold out in less than 10 minutes.

"I would be lying to you if I said we didn't expect it to have a good response. But I'd also be lying if I told you it was in the can. You never know until you're 'on air' what the market response is going to be," Wilburn says.

As mentioned above, the Gypsy sold out in a matter of hours. About two weeks later, the team launched sales of the product online and in its retail stores.

Useful links related to this article

1. Microsite
2. Facebook page
3. Twitter page
4. Display ad
5. Email 1
6. Email 2
7. Product website

Members Library: Reach Influences via Social Nets and Conferences

Rogue Gypsies

Home Shopping Network: Gypsy by Cricut World Launch

Craft and Hobby Association

StruckAxiom: Helped the team design strategy

Action Figure: Helped the team create videos

Provo Craft: Gypsy

Provo Craft

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